1 – I would like to, as the tradition of SECAM demands, present to this venerable assembly of the Pastors of Africa, the three-year work report that they have entrusted to their commission of Evangelization. However, may my presence on this plateau gratify myself some dignity, the look of wise pastors scanning the content of activities of the Commission puts to the test my ability to satisfy their expectations in accomplishing the work of the apostolic mission which they hold the secrets1. That is why from the outset, I beg the indulgence of “seniors’ in face of the groping of my inexperience, at the same time I praise the confidence they have placed in me by involving me in their work. Be honoured, dear bishops, at the measure of the concern you have for the expansion of the message of salvation of Jesus Christ to the peoples of Africa, Madagascar and adjacent islands.
2 – With regard to this indication, I would like to share with you the major concerns that earnestly seek the intervention of the bishops in their joint effort of evangelization. These concerns, which are real challenges, cannot be resolved without the help of each of you. Hence for this purpose the content of my speech focuses on eight priority activities. The choice of these activities was made in the light of pastoral guidelines from the two synodal assemblies for the African bishops in Rome, the first organized in 1994 defined the identity of the Church in Africa as the Family of God2, the second meeting in 2009, gave a specific mission to this particular Church: to be at the service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa3.
I. COMPLETED ACTIVITIES
I.1. Small Christian Communities (SCCs)
This pastoral organization has a history as diverse as the complexity of African cultural areas. It dates back to the early ’60s, on the eve of the opening of Vatican Council II (1963), while SECAM was not yet born (31/07/1969). This pastoral option had been exercised at the time when the indigenous hierarchy began to settle on the continent, a period corresponding at least to the era of political independence of African countries. The preamble note of the National Executive of the Small Christian Communities developed by the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) clearly explains the reasons behind the choice of the bishops for this pastoral orientation in 1961, which underlines the awareness of evangelisation without a clear impact on the faith of the Christians, the inadequate institutional transplantation in the mentalities of the concerned populations and the intensification of social work without an evangelical radiation. Moreover, these burdens impose the need to implant faith in God and the Gospel of Christ in the experience of the African peoples, drawing inspiration from the experience of the first Christian communities (Acts 2:42-47)4. Also, the pastoral concern of Bishops of Africa also met with the support of Pope Saint John Paul II when he encourages African churches to edify the Church Family of God through structures that proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ without undue ethnic considerations5.
However, although this in many dioceses ministry CEV implanted in the continent’s churches at different times, has not yet reached enough the objectives of the mission that has been assigned. Indeed, it suffers in many areas of lethargy due to many factors. That is why since the SECAM Plenary Assembly in 2010, the Committee on Evangelization was mandated to reactivate the ministry of SCCs which, for many bishops, is likely to raise many pastoral challenges that plague the Church of Africa, as the SCCs constitute to some extent, as noted by Pope Benedict XVI, the “carrier frames to maintain the living flame of Baptism“6. Since, by relying on authentic values of traditional African cultures, the work of evangelization can offer the message of Jesus Christ better conditions for their development7.
To this end, three training sessions were organized by SECAM with the support of Missio-AACHEN: one at St. Joseph Centre in Nairobi (September 2012), another at the headquarters of SECAM in Accra (November 2014) and the last one in Ouagadougou (August 2015). These sessions were designed to assess the impact of the ministry of SCCs on the field after several years of its presence in the dioceses. In other words, it is about rethinking the content of pastoral SCCs in relation to the evolution of modern society marked by crises of various kinds, among which the establishment of a new world geopolitics in the making, the increasing influence of new technologies and pernicious ideology of the new World Ethics. After this evaluation, two resolutions were taken as a process of “aggiornamento”: the first is to reinvigorate the pastoral of SCCs through ensuring better trained facilitators who should work in network, the other to promote this method of evangelization where it is in the embryonic stage, or just to introduce it where it is not yet established.
Also, in suggesting the ministry of SCCs, SECAM does not mean to impose it on all churches, aware of the complexity of the historical and cultural realities of Africa, Madagascar and adjacent islands.
I.2. African Year of Reconciliation
During the SECAM Plenary Assembly in Kinshasa in July 2013, the bishops decided to celebrate on the recommendation of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, a year of grace dedicated to reconciliation8. To do this, SECAM set up an animation program of activities focused mainly on the Movements of Catholic Action (MAC) constituted by the Youth, Children and Women. Unfortunately, the moderator of this project, our regretted predecessor, Rev. Fr. Pierre BOSANGIA of blessed memory, being dead before the start of activities, SECAM hastily achieved this ambitious agenda by convening meetings alternately in the month of September 2015 in Kinshasa and Nairobi. The following recommendations were made at the end of these meetings:
• grant to the Youth, Children and Women’s Movements of Catholic Action (MAC) enough space in the pastoral life, that is to promote their establishment;
• enhance women’s role as mother and the first teacher of humanity;
• recognize the merit (leadership) of African woman in areas where she makes a difference.
• fight the anti-values that are prevalent in society: moral corruption, tribalism, ethnic hatred, superstition, witchcraft, fetishism, excessive exorcism, etc.
• provide the MAC with guides (chaplains) with proven morality so that they are role models to imitate;
• properly inform the faithful of the devastating influence of the ideology of the New World Ethics;
• for the African Year of Reconciliation: undertake all reconciliation initiatives (prayer sessions: retreats, triduum, novena, etc.) at different levels: parish, diocese, region, etc.
• start preparing the African Youth Day in Kampala in 2019 through meetings at all levels: parish, diocese, region, etc.
At the end of the activities intended for the African Year of Reconciliation, we hope that the solemn celebration of the closing of the Plenary Assembly of Luanda will be the culmination of a year of grace (July 29, 2015 – July 29, 2016) lived intensely in meditation, prayer, works of atonement and reconciliation of the members of the society.
I.3. Faith, Culture and Development Section
This section of the Committee on Evangelization of SECAM is in an experimental phase and is intended to constitute a commission. Its objective is, as recommended by the Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus “… evangelizing the world of contemporary African culture.”9 It intends to rethink the development of African countries from the traditional cultural values informed by the Good News of Jesus Christ. In short, this is to exploit human resources that abound in Africa in terms of scientists and intellectuals capable of transforming the world according to the African cultural genius. The forum appeals to experts from different disciplines to which Africans are initiated and to varied skills available on the continent10.
Another dimension that the Faith, Culture and Development section wants to promote consists in developing the laity in their vocation and mission11. Not only should responsibilities be entrusted to competent lay people, but we must also honour their worth in the order of faith. It is in this perspective that the process of beatification of the former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is underway, as the memory of the great African intellectual of the twentieth century, Professor Alioune Diop, is increasingly mentioned. Similarly, the Church of Madagascar supports the cause of beatification of Mr. Lucien …., whose life deeply rooted in Christ marked his entourage. Thus SECAM wants to propose the figure of these African lay people as references of probity testimony and moral integrity inspired by the Christian faith.
I.4. Department of Biblical Apostolate (BICAM-BICAM)
The activity of this department is essentially to animate the Bible centres scattered across the continent. However, to give more visibility to the activities of this department, SECAM urges Episcopal Conferences both national and regional to acquire a commission or coordination section of Biblical Apostolate. Local leaders of this pastoral must therefore be properly identified and are requested to register their activities in the overall pastoral plan of the governing bodies.
I.5. Section of the Theological Committee (COMITHEOL)12
From the document that served as advocacy of African bishops at the Synod on the Family in Rome in October 201513, SECAM has resolved to put into perspective the activities of this section of the Committee on Evangelization which fell into disuse for many years. Therefore, meeting in workshop in Accra from 2 to 5 June 2016, a core of experts in theology conducted the reworking of the old Statutes of Comitheol for the Permanent Committee of SECAM. In its program of activities, the Comitheol plans to properly edit the work of SECAM on the Family and popularize, to identify the pastoral guidelines from the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, but also to examine the issue of dialogue with Islam in relation to acts of violence attributed to Muhammad’s disciples (cf. our title VIII below).
I.6. Plenary Assembly of FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences)
Through the collaboration of Missio Aachen, SECAM was invited to take part in the work of the Seventh Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences of (FABC), held in Bangkok (Thailand), from October 22nd to 28th, 2015. I humbly represented SECAM at this Assembly whose main theme was “SCCs Living with people of Different Faiths and Beliefs.’Go … I am always with you’ (Mt 28: 19-20).”
By the end of the works, the importance of the Small Christian Communities was amply highlighted as a form of apostolate capable of bearing witness to the faith of the whole Christian community in the midst of a world that obviously is otherwise hostile, but also indifferent to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
II. PROJECTS FOR TRIENNIUM
II.1. Pastoral SCCs
II.2. Revival of Comitheol activities
II.3. Revival of the of activities of Faith, Culture and Development section
II.4. Restructuring BICAM / BICAM
II.5. Platform animation of the Diocesan Clergy
Considering the many challenges facing the African churches, SECAM would like to benefit from the successful experience of the clergy pastoral animation developed in several dioceses, or National or Regional Conferences. Just like the Confederation of Conferences of Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar (CCMSAM) which includes within it the assemblies of religious and nuns of the continent, which mainly aims to unite the thoughts and forces in order to ensure the purposes of various institutes, but also to address common affairs in a spirit of brotherhood and solidarity14, SECAM intends to create an animation platform in order to bring together the members of the diocesan clergy of different regions within a structure of solidarity and sharing in all directions.
II.6. Animation platform of the African Laity
With their mission of managing temporal in society, the lay faithful are an invaluable source of potential for the edification of the Church Family of God in Africa15. Strengthened by the exhortation of Saint John Paul II to train lay people to assume their mission well, SECAM plans to create a platform composed of various lay people Associations and Movements of Catholic Action by ensuring effective preparation based on the learning of the social Doctrine of the Church16. In this way, by creating networks of action, African laity may work synergistically in the diversity of their respective ministries for the Propagation of the Gospel in Africa. Such a structure has the advantage of helping the faithful to move forward together in a complementary way, and to communicate with each other in all walks the life of the churches. It is within such a unifying platform that the Movements of Women and Youth, as well as the organized bodies such as the Order of Doctors, Lawyers, businessmen, etc. can all lead their apostolate while looking in the same direction.
Today, the spread of Islam across the globe raises many concerns. Indeed, the four corners of the horizon, we continue to deplore acts of violence associated rightly or wrongly with Islamist propaganda. Worse still, Christians and followers of other religious faiths are expelled from the Islamic lands in the East. What to do???
Confronted with this impasse, the advocated dialogue as a traditional way of leveling misunderstandings between believers of different religions and cultures do not seem to curb this scourge with many faces. The magnitude of the crisis is increasingly calling for other solution methods (wars, police repression) that no longer consider dialogue as the conventional and sure means of understanding! What to do???
All things considered, it seems that time has (maybe) come to examine more carefully the collaboration that the Catholic Church in Africa has with other religious groups in ecumenical or not, such as Global Christian Forum (GCF), All African Council of Churches (AACC), African Council of Religious Leaders (ACRL), etc.
Here are exposed in large outlines the activities carried out during the last three years (2013-2016) and future perspectives of the Evangelization Commission of SECAM. Your suggestions and advice are welcome to improve the overall pastoral programs from the continental Coordination Centre of SECAM. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Africa, bring to fertile completion the work of your session, through her maternal intercession!
– Thank you.
Delivered in Luanda, July 23, 2016
Rev. Fr. Edward Mombili
1st Deputy Secretary General
In charge of the Evangelization Commission of SECAM
1 Cf. Vatican II, Christus Dominus, nn. 2 et 3.
2 Cf. Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa.
3 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus.
4 Cf. CENCO, Directoire national des CEV, Ed. Secrétariat Général, 2015, p. 3.
5 Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia In Africa, nn. 89, 63.
6 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, n. 131.
7 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, Section II.3, nn. 69-87.
8 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, n. 157.
9 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, n. 37.
10 On mettra à profit le précieux apport des associations scientifiques catholiques présentes sur le continent, telles que l’Association des Universités et Instituts Supérieurs Catholiques d’Afrique et Madagascar (ASSUNICAM – ACUIHAM), l’Association pour l’Education Catholique en Afrique et Madagascar (ASSECAM), etc.
11 Cf. Jean-Paul II, Exhortation post-synodale Christifideles laici ; Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, nn. 128-130.
12 Cf. Homélie du Saint-Père Paul VI, Kampala-Ouganda, 31/07/1969 : « Vous autres, Africains, vous êtes désormais vos propres missionnaires (…). Vous devez poursuivre la construction de l’Eglise sur ce continent (…).Vous pouvez et vous devez avoir un christianisme africain ».
13 SECAM – SCEAM, The Future of the Family, our Mission; L’avenir de la famille, notre mission; O futuro da família, nossa missão; L’avvenire della famiglia, nostra missione: Contribution à la 14è Assemblée Générale Ordinaire du Synode des Evêques sur la famille, Secam-Sceam Publications, Accra (Ghana), 2015.
14 Cf. Benoît XVI, Africae Munus, n. 120.
15 Cf. Jean-Paul II, Christifideles laici, nn. 45-56.
16 Cf. Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia In Africa, n. 90.